Yoga Poses Pregnant Women Should Avoid
Half or Full Lotus Pose
This hip-opening seated pose serves as a place to center, breathe and focus your attention inward. But in pregnancy, your blood volume increases dramatically and blood-vessel walls relax to accommodate this extra blood, making you more susceptible to edema (swelling) and varicose veins. Sitting in this cross-legged seat all too easily cuts off circulation in the legs and feet, and can create a tingling feeling from the compression of nerves.
Modification: Sit with the hips open but align one heel in front of the other, with both feet in line with the spine. The hips are open and the pelvis and spine are aligned, but without cutting off circulation of blood and nerves.
Modification: From table-top position on your hands and knees, round your back like a Halloween cat as you exhale; then, extend your spine, looking forward as you inhale. Allow your abdominal muscles to support your baby belly, rather than letting it hang down toward the floor.
Modification: The wider stance of Warrior II creates more balance than triangle pose. A soft knee allows the legs to do a lot of the work rather than the side torso, which is already getting a stretch during pregnancy. Warrior II strengthens the legs and supports circulation throughout the pelvis. Start out by placing the hands on the hips and notice the alignment of the pelvis. Does it tip too far forward like a bowl spilling water? Does it tip to the right or the left? One of the most important concepts we teach in prenatal yoga classes is to first find stability in a pose, and to then find mobility. So, I instruct women to move around in this pose and to not stay in one place. Extend the arms out from the heart, and then move into Peaceful Warrior Pose—dropping the back hand down onto the thigh for stability, and raising the front arm and the gaze up toward the sky. Come back through Warrior II, and then into Side Angle Pose, using the front arm to take support of the front thigh and the back arm and gaze to reach for the sky. Avoid going as deep as possible in any one pose; instead, flow easily through these three poses.
Modification: From a sitting position, stack one shin on top of the other—right ankle on top of the left knee, right knee on top of the left ankle. Lengthen through the spine and hinge forward just enough to feel it in your hips. Then switch which shin is on top and repeat.
Modification: A modified inversion with the legs elevated at the wall, and the head and back supported by blankets or a bolster. This relieves swelling in the feet, ankles and legs. Stay in this pose for no more than 3 to 5 minutes.
Modification: You will be lying on either side for a few months, so it is worth learning how to prop yourself well in side-lying relaxation pose. Gather up pillows, blankets and bolsters; lie on one side, make sure your head is in line with the spine, supported with pillows or blankets. Make sure the top leg is well supported, keeping the hips stacked and the knee, ankle and foot in line with the top hip. A few blankets underneath the torso below the bottom arm create more space. When properly supported, side-lying pose can be incredibly relaxing.
Beth Donnelly Cabán is a Registered Nurse and childbirth educator who has been teaching prenatal yoga for 20 years. She directs the Prenatal Teacher Training Program at Integral Yoga Institute in NYC and is the consulting expert on The Essential Prenatal Yoga Video series.